The term probiotics refer to beneficial or friendly microbes (both yeasts and bacteria). There are billions of microbes in our gastrointestinal system, and also in all animals. These yeasts and bacteria help with digestion of food, fight off pathogens, make nutrients and vitamins, and boost our immune system. A common question among owners is should they use probiotics for dogs?
Well, while your dog’s body and system are different in a way, they also need probiotics. Same as with humans, if your dog is suffering from stomach upset, a general decline in health, or diarrhea, they could use some probiotics.
Probiotics for dogs come in different forms, including yogurt or kefir with live cultures, powders, capsules, chews, and dog foods.
Why your dog needs probiotics?
Factors like poor diet, stress, environmental changes, and antibiotics can deplete beneficial bacteria in your dog’s intestines. Probiotics promote the growth of good bacteria, but also carry a number of other benefits.
Here are some benefits of probiotics for dogs.
Boost immune system
As much as 80% of your dog’s immune system is based in the gut. Probiotics pair with every different part of the immune system we know. Good balance of probiotics in the gut will reduce inflammation throughout your dog’s body, and lower his/hers susceptibility to chronic diseases.
Same as in humans, probiotics improve the digestion and absorption of foods. Probiotics are vital for dogs so that they can process nutrients like vitamin B12. Probiotics facilitate the breakdown of consumed food, but also aid in the removal of toxic waste products.
Increase energy levels
Dogs might sleep more than we do, but they still do need fuel for their activity levels. Probiotics can help increase energy levels of your dog by eliminating chronic health conditions preventing your dog from being active.
Reduce food intolerances
If your dog cannot tolerate certain foods, probiotics will help eliminate the problem. They do that by removing toxic waste products. In other words, no side effects if your dog eats something he cannot process.
Neutralize food toxins
The food our dogs eat can sometimes contain ingredients that can be toxic. Do not panic. We often consume foods that can contain some harmful ingredients as well. Just think about all of the processes that happen before the food is manufactured. Probiotics help degrade and neutralize food toxins and carcinogens.
Hormonal balance is vital for your pet’s health. Probiotics will keep the hormones regulated, and balanced.
Reduce the risk of infections
In female dogs, probiotics help reduce urinary tract infections. Female dogs are more susceptible to urinary tract infections because of the way they go to the toilet, which is closer to the ground.
Improve brain function
Probiotics provide intestinal microbiome for your body, which is in charge of producing neurotransmitters and neuropeptides for brain health. Pets that lack this microbiome behave differently from normal pets.
Are there any side effects?
Probiotics are generally safe for consumption. But the fact of the matter is that any substances that can effect changes with a living organism are going to produce side effects. Some of these side effects will not manifest, because they occur at a cellular level. Others may show.
When it comes to probiotics, supplements are safe to give to your dogs as long as they contain nothing but natural ingredients. Usually, side effects can occur when supplements contain ingredients that do not already exist in the canine GI tract. Some side effects that can happen are excess gas, constipation, or diarrhea, and others associated with digestive issues.
If you are wondering about allergic reactions, on the other hand, most dogs are not allergic to probiotics. According to statistics, just one in a million dogs and people can show an allergic reaction to probiotics.
We said that probiotics that contain only natural ingredients are completely safe. Low-quality probiotics, on the other hand, can cause side effects. Be careful if probiotics are labeled “for dogs”, as they might be in fact, designed for humans.
Some bacteria exist only in dogs, and others only in humans. When you are looking for canine-specific probiotics, look at the label. These are canine-specific bacteria you want:
- Bifidobacterium animalis
- Lactobacillus acidophilus
- L. rhamnosus
- L. fermentum
- L. reuteri
- L. salivarius
As for the question of how many probiotics do your dog needs, it depends on the severity of his condition. In any case, you should closely monitor your dog, and observe his eating and sleeping habits.
See if his energy levels have increased, and then decide if you need a higher or lower dose of probiotics.
What to look for in probiotics?
In addition to canine-specific bacteria, you should also check other things on the label of probiotics. For starters, guaranteed analysis of how many live bacteria there will be at the end of shelf life.
Some companies show how many live bacteria are in the product at the point of manufacture, but if they do not have a high shelf life, they might be dead by the time you purchase the product.
And of course, the use-before date. You do not want out of date product.
When to use probiotics?
Probiotics are prescribed to your dog when you need to maintain a desirable intestinal microbial balance. When your furry friend is stressed or sick, the balance may be disrupted. The result is diarrhea, gas, bad breath, and other digestive issues.
With that in mind, here are some triggers that can cause digestive disorders, and a sign you need probiotics.
- Any infection or bacterial imbalance
- Stress, usually emotional, such as moving, losing a home, boarding, and similar changes that can result in colitis. This is one reason why dogs in shelters often suffer from diarrhea
- Changes in the diet, or eating food that is spoiled
- Old age
- Medications, namely antibiotics can disrupt your dog’s bacterial balance
If your dog is prone to developing diarrhea in stressful situations, you can give him probiotics as a form of prevention. For example, if you plan a trip, give your dog some probiotics for a few days in advance.
Puppies that tend to get diarrhea before a visit to the vet can also benefit from probiotics.
If you want to buy some probiotics, we have a couple of suggestions.
- Purina Fortiflora canine nutritional supplements are great as a general probiotic
- If you are on a budget, try Nusentia probiotic miracle supplement
- For some chewing probiotics, PetVitalityPro probiotics are a great choice
- For improving digestion, try Zesty Paws Probiotic Bites
- If your dog is older, try Amazing Nutritionals probiotic joint tablets
- For allergies, Zesty Paws allergy immune bites work best
- For puppies, honest kitchen pro bloom instant goat’s milk is your choice